In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store–Coffee, Books, and More–open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?
When Jill’s elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily’s gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill–along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit–especially if it gets her closer to South Cove’s finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she’s on the case–and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently. (Goodreads)
Guidebook to Murder takes the well-known "unexpected inheritance" plot and gives it almost too many twists in the form of additional "treasures," a mayor and developer intent on condemning Jill's new house to put up condos, and several other possible claimants to Miss Emily's estate. Throw in an attractive but possibly married police detective, a series of threats, a sudden disappearance, and tensions around Jill's coffee shop and bookstore, and poor Jill is suddenly up to her ears in troubles.
Despite its plethora of complications, the plot works pretty well overall, and author Lynn Cahoon succeeded in pulling the wool over my eyes regarding the main villain's identity. I say "main villain," because the author doesn't make trying to pin all the nefarious deeds (of which there are a fair few) on a single person, making the challenge of identifying the perpetrator(s) more difficult for the fictional sleuths -- and more fun for the reader!
I did think Jill's book-and-coffeeshop would feature more prominently in the mystery, and it's one of the things that drew me to the book in the first place. I'm hoping the shop will play a bigger role in the next mystery, but I understand why this book couldn't revolve around it. Jill has more than enough on her plate just dealing with her inheritance, making urgently-needed repairs to the house, and trying to find a murderer; it simply makes sense that her shop has to take a backseat for a while.
My only real peeve about the novel, other than the sheer unlikelihood of so many unexpected things occurring so close together, is that Cahoon resorts to a common and overused ploy to increase romantic tension: the long misunderstanding that could be easily cleared up with a single conversation. Frankly, that trope drives me nuts; a reasonable, rational adult would simply confront whatever issue is causing the tension and talk about it. But that's a personal preference, and since the relationship isn't the main focus of the book, I didn't find it as annoying as I would have in a romance novel. Aside from that one complaint, the budding romance is sweet and charming, with plenty of potential for future books.
Guidebook to Murder is entertaining and fun despite its minor flaws. I like Jill, her aunt Jackie, her friend Amy, and Detective Greg King, and I look forward to seeing what happens to them next. Most important, the mystery kept me guessing almost to the end, and that's not always easy to do! I'm already looking forward to the next book in the Tourist Trap series, Mission to Murder, due out July 31.
* * *
Rating: 3.5 stars
Category: Cozy mystery
Series: Tourist Trap Mystery #1
Release date: 4/17/14
Book source: review e-copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley
About the author: Lynn Cahoon is the author of the Tourist Trap Mystery series, several romances, and The
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